Suffolk's rose Laura Wright comes home to county

PUBLISHED: 13:27 22 August 2011 | UPDATED: 19:53 20 February 2013

Suffolk singing star Laura Wright is releasing her first solo album this month. Andrew Clarke joined her for a cup of coffee on Ipswich Waterfront and discovers her love of English folk music

Suffolk singing star Laura Wright is releasing her first solo album this month. Andrew Clarke joined her for a cup of coffee on Ipswich Waterfront and discovers her love of English folk music

Suffolk singer and former AllAngels star Laura Wright hasa burning desire to beEnglands rose the nationsmascot, standing in the centrecircle, singing her heart out atinternational football and rugbymatches.

Id love to be standing out thereleading the singing, she says,conjuring up memories of the time shesang at Portman Road at the dedicationof The Sir Bobby Robson Stand inNovember 2009.Theres no-one doing that for theEnglish teams and I would love to dothat. It provides a focus for us as anation.

Her debut solo album, calledappropriately enough The Last Rose, isa celebration of British folk songs set tonew arrangements by John Rutter andPatrick Hawes. She says the biggestthrill was singing live with The RoyalPhilharmonic Orchestra in the studio.

The former Framlingham Collegeschool girl, whose family still lives inFramsden, in mid-Suffolk, first shot tofame at the age of 15 when she won theBBC Radio 2 Chorister of the Yearcompetition and then subsequently wasrecruited for the classical singing groupAll Angels in 2006.

After four busy years and threealbums later, she surprised the musicindustry by leaving the group toconcentrate on her studies at the RoyalCollege of Music, where she has justcompleted her second year and has twomore years to go before she graduates.

We meet up at the DanceHouse cafon Ipswich Waterfront. Laura has beenhappily posing for our photographer ina light summer dress on the quayside.The bright July sunshine in ourpictures disguises the unseasonablychill nature of the breeze blowing offthe water.Laura doesnt complain, wrestles tokeep her hair under control, and chatsaway happily about meeting up withfellow Framlingham student ChristinaLouise Johnston for a series of summerconcerts to raise money for charity.

Pictures taken, we return, somewhatwindblown, indoors to talk of her newalbum and her difficult decision lastyear to leave All Angels.The bubbly performer, who is stillonly 21, says that she misses thecamaraderie of the group and thefriendship of the girls Daisy Chute,Melanie Nakhla and Charlotte Ritchie but pressure of work at college andconcern at the musical direction thegroup was taking persuaded her to callit a day.

At that time I had no plans to embarkon a solo career far from it I justwanted to concentrate on my studies. Infact I turned down an offer by ourmanagement company for them tomanage me as a solo act.

There were so many tears. I still getemotional every time I talk about. Igrew up with them. From 15-20, we werethrown together by our life in thegroup. These were our formative yearsand we were there for each other. Wewere such good friends and so close,which is why it wasnt so difficult tobreak the news that I wanted to leave.

I said: You know me well enough toknow that this is going in a directionwhich isnt right for me. Also we knewthat the group wouldnt last forever.Having gone down a more classicalroute, I needed to move on. It had tohappen at some point. Theyre stillgoing, still doing well and have gotRachel Fabri as their soprano and I amso happy for them.

She said that after years on theshowbusiness treadmill it was nice tohave breathing space to rediscoverherself, devote herself to her studiesand reconnect with her singing.I did have a lot of pressure fromRoyal College to concentrate on mystudies which played a big part in mydecision to leave All Angels. Ultimatelyit was my decision, but there wereexternal factors as well.

The idea for her solo album was bornlast Christmas when her grandmotherwas having a clearout at her home in Ireland and offered Laura hercollection of sheet music.The first book that I looked throughwas a really tatty old book of folk songsand the first song in there was The LastRose of Summer and by chance I hadalso been singing some Roger Quilterpieces at Royal College and somehow Ijust found myself singing this type offolk music.

I then began to research a bit more,research into my own familybackground. I asked my grandmotherloads of questions and it turned outthat her mother had sung a lot of thesesongs to her as a child and they hadbeen passed down from her mother.

I come from a very musical familyanyway but it seemed right to try andkeep these songs alive. They becamepart of my own family heritage andpart of my own personal journey.At the same time I had had this offerto record an album for Decca and wewere casting around for ideas and thisjust struck me as the right one becauseit was different and very personal.

She said that there has been a hugerevival in interest in folk music inrecent years but in the pop industrygroups like Mumford & Sonsconcentrated on Nu-Folk and wrotetheir own material.I wanted to go back, find thetraditional melodies of folk, but thenbring them up-to-date with newarrangements. I wanted to restart theclassical side of it rather than the pop.

Laura has a ver clear, very pureclassical voice you wouldnt normallyassociate with folk, which relies onbeing a bit rough around the edges togive it a lot of its character andexpression.But, the new album works becausethe purity of her voice and theuncluttered arrangements focus thelisteners attention very much on thesimple melodies and the timeless lyrics.For Laura, timeless is very much theword which sums up the album.

These lyrics are often sung aslullabies but if you take them out ofthose arrangements and put them intosomething more direct, then you realisehow beautiful the lyrics are.In the past there has been a lot ofattention on Scottish, Irish and Welshfolk music but there hasnt been anyonelooking at the English folk tradition.My grandmother is Irish but I feelEnglish through and through and I lovegoing to these big sporting events, likeTwickenham and go out and singsomething English.

She said that despite her enthusiasmfor the album she found herself reallynervous before recording. Songs likeScarborough Fair and The Water IsWide are such iconic songs becauseeveryone has a soundbite in their headsof what these songs sound like and, forme, it was quite scary to change thesongs but John Rutter, one of thearrangers, said: Youve just got to singwith honesty.

So does she have any other greatambitions? She stops and thinks for amoment before returning to herEnglish rose theme.I have strong links with the RoyalBritish Legion and I would love to goout to Afghanistan and sing for thetroops thats something I have beenwanting to do for three or four yearsnow.

Other than that I want to keeprecording albums and singing live. Iwould love to travel abroad and sing inother countries. I would love to do aworld tour but thats still some way off.Theres no plan as such. I have to finishmy studies first.

At the end of the interview, she isheading off to the family home. Doesshe get back to Suffolk much?Oh yes. I love coming back home. Itsmy bolt hole. Its great to escape thepressures of London. Plus my familykeep me grounded. My brothers keepme on the straight and narrow. Theydont let me get away with anything,she adds with a laugh.

Laura Wright: The Last Rose isreleased by Decca Records on July 25.She and Christina Louise Johnston willbe doing a series of concerts inSouthwold, Aldeburgh andFramlingham churches during August.Check the EADT for details.

Latest from the EADT Suffolk Magazine